Start a business – the 5 marketing things to do first

You’re good at what you do, you’ve got a bit of cash put by and you’ve got a hunger to start a business – so what’s stopping you?

Talking to many people in the same situation it’s clear that marketing is a significant blocker to people starting a new business.

The problem is that there are so many people out there trying to sell you stuff it’s difficult to know what to do first.

So here’s a sales pitch-free blog post that tells you the things I would do if I was starting a business from scratch.

#1 – Decide what you do (and who for)

This may sounds stupid but it is absolutely the key and you need to do this BEFORE you do anything else.

Deciding what you do and who you do it for will drive your marketing output and define which channels you use to communicate your offer so don’t neglect this step or it could be costly.

The first step is to work on your 10 second elevator pitch.

This needs to be clear and concise and frankly if you can’t tell people what you do in 10 seconds then you haven’t got a hope in hell of marketing your business in any cost-effective manner.

You need to focus your approach too.

Work out exactly who you are going to be selling to; and I mean EXACTLY.

When you first start up in business it is tempting to think that you can help everyone but marketing to the whole world just means that your message becomes diffused and gets ignored.

For example “I sell specialist insurance for plumbers” works a lot better than “I sell insurance for everybody”.

See my post on focus here (don’t worry that it’s for accountants, the principles are the same.

#2 – Build your network

Do this well before you start up in business.

Your network is like gold and will bring you sales, publicity and suppliers.

Businesses that have a large and active network always do better than closed, insular companies.

Be selective though, choose a networking group that has people who look like your target customers rather than a big bunch of randoms that won’t ever buy from you.

If you provide professional grade practice management software then you’re probably going to be wasting your time on mumsnet, for example.

#3 – Get your website up and running

Again you can do this before you even start and with the number of easy website builders out there you have no reason not to have a go yourself.

That having been said, you can find really good professional builders on sites like Fiverr, people per hour and Upwork who will build you a perfectly acceptable site at a low cost.

As you build your network you’ll realise that everyone you meet will be checking out your website to see if you are credible.

Your site doesn’t need to be sophisticated or snazzy, just professional and you can get away with a homepage, about, services and contact pages and then develop it later.

Just make sure your about page has a good story on it.

#4 Get your blog up and running

If you are hoping to attract customers using searches then you need to get your SEO right.

It’s not a matter of writing a blog post and then Google picks you up the next day, you need to have a history of posts.

Even if you don’t expect to pick customers up this way then your new business needs to build up a credible looking site so get your blog up and running and look to post once a week with some valuable information about your sector.

Don’t worry too much about driving sales or hitting specific keywords at this point (that comes later), concentrate on getting into the groove of posting regularly.

You can find out more about digital marketing here.

#5 Plan your marketing

Having a marketing plan before you start your business makes so much sense it is amazing that so few people do it.

Amazing but nonetheless true.

A marketing plan is a great idea because it forces you to think about what you are going to do, when and how much it is going to cost.

Most new businesses have a limited marketing budget so it’s a good idea to think about where you are going to spend it and then analyse the results afterwards to see what is working and what isn’t.

That way you’ll only spend money where you are getting the biggest bang for your buck.

Start a business – become a marketer

When you start a business you’ll find that you are doing more jobs than ever before.

You’ll become the janitor, the CFO, the Chief exec and the head of marketing!

Just like the operational tasks you need to take marketing seriously, after all if you don’t you won’t have any customers to help!

So make sure that you get your marketing head on and if it all seems like a bit too much, then find someone who can help (cough).

Good luck with starting your new business!

Show you are different – marketing differentiation

Trying to be different? Marketing differentiation. Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

If you are trying to attract more customers then there are 6 tried and tested ways of using marketing differentiation to show why people should buy from you.

In an ideal world, your business, product or service would have all of these but actually many companies do very well by using just one and in this post I’m going to explain what marketing differentiation is and how you can use it.

In this post;

What is differentiation?

Differentiation in marketing terms is simply the process of showing how you are different from the competition.

There are a whole load of ways that these differences can manifest themselves but they will be positive attributes of the company that are important to their target group of customers.

Sometimes the difference is real but in the worst cases it is merely fluff, and I’d argue that businesses that are sustainable have real factors that make them stand out from their peers and don’t engage in dishonest marketing.

I genuinely think that consumers can see through fluff and with the advent of social media the news spreads very rapidly indeed.

Most companies that are finding that their marketing isn’t working actually have the differentiation factors already, it’s just that their marketing doesn’t reflect it. In other words they are hiding their light under a bushel.

So what are these differentiators and how can you spot and use them in your marketing?

Product

This is possibly the most obvious and easiest to spot.

Product differentiation is when a company has a product and service that is so different from the competition that it makes them stand out on their own.

Possibly the best example of this would be the iPhone.

marketing differentiation  - the original iPhone

Back in 2007 there really wasn’t anything like it on the market.

Sure there were phones, but the iPhone was so radically different that it changed the device market entirely and indirectly led to the destruction of the biggest phone manufacturer of the time, Nokia.

Now if you are lucky enough to have a product or service that is so radically different that it is going to totally change the sector you work in then that’s great news but beware…

Look at the phone market now and you’ll see that it is totally flooded with ‘me too’ products that do exactly what the iPhone does, but cheaper or better.

So if your marketing is built on the shifting sands of a product then be aware that you have a limited amount of time before your competitors catch up.

But the good news is that if you have a product that stands out in one or two ways then you can use that as a basis for a marketing campaign.

A good example of this is the way that BT sells it’s internet services. BT majors on the fact that it can give you the fastest domestic broadband and ties all of its marketing to this, showing the way that your life would be better if you have faster internet access.

Naturally it glosses over the fact that it is more expensive then the competition!

So picking out one or two stand out features of your product or service and then going big on them in your marketing is a real winner.

marketing differentiation  - using product features

Service

Think about all the companies you use as a consumer or as a business owner.

Is there one that charges a little more but you keep using because the service they offer is stunning?

When I take my car or more importantly my motorbike for an MOT I always go to Joe’s MOT near me in Bournemouth.

I know for a fact that there are MOT stations closer than them, and some that offer cut-price MOT’s to get the business in. I can even get free MOT’s as part of the package that comes with other products I buy like car insurance or my accountancy institute fees.

marketing differentiation  - great service always sells

But despite the disparity in cost, I take my vehicle to these guys because they are great to work with and that’s important to me.

Service is a great way to counter competitors who are selling at cut-price, because there has to be a very significant reduction in value for a consumer to walk away from great service.

Channels of distribution

If you have seen the 7 P’s of marketing then you’ll know this as ‘Place’ and the channel of distribution really describes the way that you get your product or service to the customer.

There’s a prosperous town near me that doesn’t have a fishmonger (not many do nowadays) and once a week a chap turns up with a little van and sets up a wet fish stall in the centre.

He’s spotted that there’s a gap in the market and has delivered his product in a place that is convenient for his customers.

Now he has a bunch of regular customers that know that he will turn up on a specific day of the week and who visit the town centre just to see him.

Delivering your service using the channel that your customers like and feel comfortable with is a great way to show how you are different from the competition.

It works particularly well when a channel is new. For example in the early days of Facebook there weren’t many people selling on the platform and yet it had a very defined audience.

If you look at any new distribution channel like Instagram or TikTok then you’ll see that companies can develop a new customer base very quickly if they are first adopters but just like ‘Product’, it can start to get crowded very quickly so don’t base your entire marketing strategy on this!

Relationships

There’s an old saying: ‘people buy from people’ and when you want to differentiate your marketing this is an excellent thing to remember.

This really is all about building relationships with people rather than seeing them as a number and whilst it is a natural state for a smaller business, larger companies can use it as well.

When they set up their business in 2017, Blue Motor Finance decided to go traditional and use business relationship style salespeople who personally visited car dealers to introduce the service with no hard sell.

They took time to get to know their customers, their business and who they were selling to and designed a product to fit. Blue incentivised its people based on relationship building and how many times they visited their potential customers rather than just sales figures.

The result was that by 2019 Blue was the fastest growing business in Europe and the company continues to go from strength to strength.

You usually find that a relationship approach goes hand in hand with service marketing and if your business has great relationships with its customer then look at using service as an additional feature in your marketing.

Reputation/image

Reputation is something that has really come to the fore, especially since around 2010.

It used to be that reputation was everything and back in the day companies worked very hard to build up their name in their industry and equally hard to retain it.

Somewhere along the way, we lost that and companies were happy to treat customers, suppliers and staff badly, just as long as their products were cheaper than everyone else’s!

The problem with this approach is that there’s always someone who can do it cheaper or quicker and so competing on price can be a slippery slope.

There are also sectors where having a bad reputation is a complete disaster. Imagine a bank that had an awful reputation for security or a cosmetic surgeon who was known to only have a 50% hit rate!

That’s why for many companies image and reputation are vital parts of their marketing mix.

Think about the marketing differentiation of the Body Shop, Virgin or British Airways.

Trust is important in marketing differentiation  -

All of these have a very specific image and a good reputation in their niche.

Today you can find any number of sites like Trustpilot that will even collate reputation scores and so if your customers love you then you are on to a winner.

Reputation works well when trust is important and although I wouldn’t suggest necessarily building an entire marketing campaign around the fact that you don’t rip people off (because it introduces into customers minds that they could be ripped off!) it is a great differentiator when you have two offerings that are very similar.

Price

I never compete on price, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid marketing tool.

So for example I would never try and win business by undercutting a competitor because I know how long it will take to do a good job and when you start cutting your prices then customers expect that you will always give them a discount.

But you can use price as a marketing differentiator to point to other features of your product.

I had a conversation with a client who decided to go to a cheaper copywriter.

OK so that was annoying but around three months later he came back and commissioned work at the original price because he found that paying less for something meant that he got worse quality and that in the end he spent longer correcting the mistakes that a cheap copywriter makes.

I even wrote a blog post about what happened when I tested out some cheap copywriters.

So using the example above you can show why your price is higher and weave in some of the other aspects such as reputation and service to make your case.

Of course, many companies have been using their high price as a badge of exclusivity for years like Stella Artois, whose ‘reassuringly expensive’ tagline has served well since 1992.

The use of price doesn't always mean trying to sell at the lowest price

Your next steps

If I were running your marketing I’d start by looking at your customers. What things are important to them?

Exclusivity?

Convenience?

Trust?

Then I’d look at your product or service. What things would be important if I were buying it?

Then I’d look to see what positive attributes your business, your staff and your product have and then begin to weave them into a narrative.

When you have done all that, you need to make sure that all of your marketing output majors on the one or two aspects you have chosen.

Need some help with marketing differentiation?

Come on guys you know the drill. If you’d like to work with someone who is incredibly sarcastic but deep down a nice guy then click on the link!

11 examples of tone of voice

I wanted to give you some examples of tone of voice as a companion piece to my post on types of tone of voice.

In this post I’m highlighting some very different types to hopefully give you some inspiration and show how your tone of voice can be different, even if you are in the same industry.

Crunch.co.uk

I chose accountants as they get a pretty bad rep for communication generally.

I think sometimes this is fair, but there are some accountants out there that really spend a lot of time on their marketing and communication so I wanted to celebrate a couple here.

Crunch is an online accountancy practice that specialises in working with smaller businesses.

They get my vote because they have put a lot of effort into their marketing with a bright and cheery site, not too many long words and no jargon.

It’s easy to find what you want and understand the language when you get there.

Their tone of voice is cheery, helpful, friendly and is designed to give people a sense of an approachable business.

Crunch accounting

Deloitte

Deloitte is the other end of the scale entirely.

They work with very large companies and government departments and look how their use of language differs.

There’s a fair bit of corporate speak in there with words like ecosystem, illuminate, perspective, divestiture.

They are speaking in the way that their customers expect and the whole tone of voice in this example is designed to show that they are ultra professional and serious people.

Deloitte website

Rolls Royce cars

Check out the Rolls Royce website for a great example of tone of voice.

RR have decided that less is definitely more and you’ll struggle to find much in the way of copy on the site.

Why?

Because it’s all about brand perception.

People who visit the site are looking for a dream car and frankly they don’t need you to tell them about MPG or CO2 emissions.

I love this site because of the minimalist approach they have taken, I just hope that the copywriter wasn’t paid by the word!

Rolls Royce cars

Ford

In contrast, Ford has taken the view that its customers need to know exactly how much value they are getting for their money.
There’s lots of information about the cars and it’s presented in an easy to read and accessible style.

This illustrates one of the things about tone of voice that many people forget. Sometimes it’s not about what you do say (Ford) but what you don’t say (RR).

Ford torneo

Virgin wines

In this example I wanted to show how the tone of voice can extend across a whole brand.

Virgin wines uses very youthful, fun, enjoyable language to entice the buyer into their club.

But it is interesting how the same tone of voice is used across the whole virgin brand from wines to mobile phones to airlines.

What is interesting is that not all of the virgin companies are still owned by the group but they continue to use the same type of tone of voice.

Virign wines example tone of voce

Even the main group websites uses the same tone of voice!

Virgin group example tone of voice

Berry Bros & Rudd

Berry Bros & Rudd are reputed to be the UK’s oldest wine merchant and their website is set up for serious wine buffs.

Sure they have selection cases just like Virgin, but the way they describe their wines is totally different.

You’ll find a lot more detailed information on the site too, as this is what serious wine people want and the language is more sober (if you’ll forgive the pun) and speaks to people who are often wanting wine as an investment and not for their Friday night dinner party.

Berry bros & Rudd tone of voice example

Amigo loans

Held up as a disruptor in the personal loans space in the UK I’ve always been impressed with the tone of voice that Amigo adopted.

Bear in mind that when they started out the loan market in the UK was pretty ‘fuddy duddy’ and the traditional banks spoke to people as though they were something that the cat dragged in.

Amigo pioneered the straight-talking, accessible language that we see on so many finance sites nowadays.

This is a good example because it shows how accessible language can be used to make complex subjects easy.

The site is professional but friendly and across the pages it makes it clear that borrowers can always call in and talk to a person.

Example of Amigo Loans tone of voice

Royal Bank of Scotland

RBS takes an entirely different approach.

No messing about trying to become your friend for these guys – they are right in there with the APR and their copy ‘above the fold’ reads like an extract from the little legal bit they have to put at the bottom of their print output.

I’ll be honest, I hate this.

OK so it is compliant with FCA regulations but guys, c’mon. It’s 2020.

Buy me a drink before you ask to take me home!

RBS tone of voice

Lush

OK so I used this one in my post on types of tone of voice and I make no apologies for including it here.

Own up time: I worked at Lush in the early days and I remember how much effort went into developing the tone of voice and look of the site.

Personally I think they have got it spot on and not because I worked there. I’m most certainly not in their target demographic!

If you want to see a really individual tone of voice then check out their product descriptions or read their blog.

Lush tone of voice example

Yves Saint-Laurent

Ok so sometimes it’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it (see Rolls Royce) but sometimes…

When I started searching for examples of tone of voice I found some that I didn’t and YSl is in that category.

I’m including the YSL site here because it shows something really interesting.

On the corporate site YSL badges itself as ‘The most subversive Parisian luxury beauty brand’

However when you come to read the product descriptions they are anything but subversive.

In fact, it’s almost like someone forgot to tell the copywriter what tone of voice they were going for!

This is a good example of what not to do.

Don’t set out your stall as one thing and then choose a tone of voice that is completely at odds with your mission, goals or marketing themes.

Take a look at the wording below and think ‘subversive’. Not really is it?

Are subversive people really worried about the colour of the bottle that their Eau De Parfum arrives in?

YSL tone of voice

Boots

In contrast I really like the site of UK High Street giant Boots.

OK so it’s not as funky as the Lush site but they are going for a different demographic (me maybe).

Their fragrance descriptions are well written, clear, accessible and enticing.

They are even formatted a little like wine descriptions.

Personally I think they have done a good job here and it shows how you can use different language in simple product descriptions to speak to your audience.

Examples of tone of voice – now find yours

So I’ve given you some examples of tone of voice to get you thinking about how different companies use language to communicate their brand values.

Some I liked and some I didn’t but what I think doesn’t matter.

It’s what your customers think that is important.

My best advice is to keep a note of sites you visit where you like how they communicate and then ask yourself whether that would work with your customers.

Then try it on for size.

Write some product descriptions or a blog post in that tone of voice and decide whether it fits or not.

Sometimes gut feeling is better than scientific analysis!


Give me a shout

If you’d like help developing your tone of voice then why not contact me by pressing the big blue button?

Types of tone of voice – how to choose yours

choose the right types of tone of voice

There are many different types of tone of voice and for most of the websites you visit you probably won’t even have noticed that they are using one.

A company that chooses the right tone of voice immediately falls into synch with their customers and this means that the tone of voice doesn’t stand out.

The only times you do notice a tone of voice is when it clearly isn’t right for the brand or when you are specifically looking at how language is being used – like in this article!

TL:DR Tone of voice

What is tone of voice?

The tone of voice is the language, grammar and even the types of slang and Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) you use.

In short, it’s what you say and how you say it.

Vocabulary.com define it as the ‘quality of a person’s voice’ and this I reckon that this is a pretty accurate description.

Because quality is an incredibly important part of deciding on how you want to sound to your customers.

A smart brand will have a tone of voice that they use across all of their media, whether it be spoken tone of voice in videos and podcasts or written tone of voice in their blog posts, white papers, and even their advertising materials.

The key is to make sure that you are using the same tone of voice across all of your output, otherwise things start to jar and your brand can even start to look unauthentic.

Why tone of voice matters

So why on earth should you care about tone of voice?

Well the first reason is that your tone of voice can be used as a form of filter.

You are looking to attract customers who will buy into your company and what you are offering right?

So for example, if you have a funky cosmetics brand like Lush then you’ll want to make people feel like they are part of the gang, that they belong and that life is fun.

The tone of voice that Lush use across all of their stuff means that users instantly connect with the brand but if you’re not into that then you’ll be turned off and will probably move away.

This is fine because you’re not in the target market and probably wouldn’t buy anyway.

So developing an effective tone of voice strengthens the bond with your target market and to an extent makes it clear to your non-targets that this isn’t the place for them.

Types of tone of voice

So here’s the fun stuff – looking at different types of tone of voice.

For my tone of voice I am looking to provide a friendly and informative post. My website is generally written in the first person (“I” rather than “we”) and I will use slang and the occasional bit of humour to break up what can after all be some fairly detailed and technical subjects.

I’m also using my tone of voice as a filter.

I love working with people, small businesses, entrepenuers.

I hate working with corporates

So the moment you start reading my output you realise that I am not a big agency. You’re not paying fancy prices for things you don’t need.

That’s attractive to smaller companies but corporates get really nervous unless they are being charged ridiculous money so they go away.

Result!

So let’s look at some examples

I’ve already mentioned cosmetics firm Lush (secret: I used to work with them when they first developed their tone of voice) and they are an excellent example of a tone of voice.

Check out this product and the accompanying copy “Spritz yourself with a little bit of magic and wrap yourself in a cloak of candy floss and bubblegum”

It’s flowery, often funny and light, fitting in perfectly with their demographic.

Now check out retirement home builder McCarthy and Stone.

The tone of voice is completely different.

When people are thinking about buying a retirement property they want safety, security and sensible businesses. They aren’t wanting someone to spray them with fairy dust!

And so the TOV is completely different.

If you want to see the effect it can have then re-read the McCarthy and Stone website but switch it to the Lush use of language and see how that jars.

Another good example is Zero Motorcycles.

Their customers are clearly looking to the future and are already on board with the move to electric so the Zero copy capitalises on that with;

Zero are using a tone of voice that captures the move towards the future, identifying the transformational nature of the experience.

However try the Aston Martin website (particularly the brand stories section).

The language is totally different and they major on the heritage and quality of their design with phrases like;

How to choose your tone of voice

I wrote a longer article on the process of choosing your own tone of voice here but there are some simple steps you can take to make the process easier.

The first thing is to define your customer. You have decided on your target market right?

Then check out the places that they hang out. Look at message boards, Facebook groups, insta posts and learn the language that they use.

This will give you a better idea of the sort of language that is attractive to the people you want to talk to.

Then have a look around for websites you like and that fit in with this form of tone of voice.

See what they say, how they say it and what tricks they use to personalise their site.

Think about your values – are you a friendly company? Do you provide safety and security? Do you believe in being a trendsetter?

This last point is important because if you are a trendsetter in your industry then you don’t want to be using exactly the same tone of voice as all of your competitors for example.

Think also about the types of rhythm you like. Will you use rhymes, alliteration, lists.

What age are your target customers?

Do you need to include street-slang or are your people technicians who really like the odd TLA thrown in to show that you understand the subject matter?

Here’s a great tip for working out where you want to be.

Boil down your brand and mission into a few words (no more than six).

For example Aston Martin might be “quality, speed, technology, heritage”.

This will give you a steer as to the direction you need to be moving (pun intended).

Finally the best way to decide on your tone of voice is to try it on and see if it fits.

Get a copywriter to write product or service descriptions in several different types of TOV and just see what feels right.

So often our gut feeling turns out to be the right one.

Good luck with deciding on your tone of voice and if you need any copy or marketing help then you know where I am!

How much does copywriting cost?

How much does copywriting cost

If you are looking to spend some money on your marketing then you are going to need a copywriter and that leads you to the question “How much does copywriting cost?”

You can find copywriters that will range from $8 up to $2000 per thousand words but you have to ask what you are getting for your money.

So why would you pay $2000 when you can get the same number of words for $8?

Read on friend and find out…

You get what you pay for (mostly)

The truth is that you wouldn’t need to try very hard to find someone somewhere in the world who would be happy to know out a thousand words for $8.

But the work you would get would be awful.

Don’t believe me? Check out what happened when I bought some cheap writing here

The problem is that when you buy a number of words for a very low price what you will get is exactly that – a number of words.

They won’t necessarily be connected to one another in a way that we’d think makes sense and they won’t be specially designed to impress your reader.

There are two different way you can get copywriting done cheaply; a copy farm or buying from somewhere that human work is cheap.

In the first one you’ll get given something that has been produced using a computer and some version of an algorithm or what they may call AI.

What will come out of the end is something that reads a bit like those chat boxes that you sometimes get when you are looking for help from your utility supplier.

The words are there alright but they aren’t quite right. There’s something a little odd.

Now you have to ask yourself if you are happy with giving your customers the impression that there’s something not quite right about your business!

In the second case you’ll be buying from someone who has English as a second, third (or more) language.

They are cheap but you do need to be aware that you’ll probably spend more time spellchecking and reorganising the grammar that you would have spent writing the thing yourself!

It’s not worth the hassle.

When you are asking “How much does copywriting cost?” you actually need to also ask what the output will be.

So it’s worth spending as much as you possibly can on copywriting?

Well maybe.

You see copywriters are a little bit like cars in this respect.

You can buy a Bentley or you can buy a Ssangyong, they both have four wheels and get you from A to B.

So it’s not really “How much does copywriting cost?” but how much style do you want to travel in?

In the world of copywriting you can go to one of the big agencies and pay an absolute fortune for a copywriter (and their account director and their assistant account director) and you will definitely get some good stuff.

Or you can get someone who hasn’t really done any writing before but will have a bit of a go for £20 and a packet of malteasers.

Then in the middle, there’s a whole swathe of people from freelancers, to people who work for agencies that will do you a bang-up job for the equivalent of a BMW.

How much does a copywriter cost?

Well the answer to that question is up to you.

You can check out the average prices here based on London freelancers or you could just give me a call and I’ll tell you how good value I am!

What is a good bounce rate?

what is a good bounce rate she's thinking

What should you consider as a good bounce rate for your company?

This is a question that exercises most people who are looking to move their pages up the SERPs and it’s one that is to a large extent a question of opinion.

The problem is that Google, Bing and all the others don’t publish guidelines like this so any view is largely based on experience, hunches and personal opinion.

However we can give general guidelines as to what constitutes a good bounce rate as long as we add on a few important health warnings!


bounce rate image
Want to know what bounce rates are? click to read all about it

If you don’t believe me then check out what Google say about bounce rate here

A good bounce rate isn’t necessarily a good bounce rate

Confused?

Good.

So here’s the thing, one person’s good bounce rate is another’s disaster and this is our first health warning.

To a great extent the measure of what is a good bounce rate depends upon the type of company you are promoting.

This all hinges upon how you expect users to view your site and how it is organised.

For example, imagine a shop site that has a home page that has links to several product category pages and from there many product pages.

It would be highly unusual for a customer(real) to visit one page and do nothing else.

However a site with just one page that exists purely as a ‘contact us’ page or looks to get people to sign up can’t possibly have a low bounce rate as there are no other pages to view.

So your first port of call is to understand what type of site you have.

Types of company and what their bounce rates should be

So we know that there are different types of company and they all have different bounce rates so what are they?

Most sites should sit in a range that goes between 25%-90%.

That’s a big range so let’s chop it up a bit.

If you have a shop type site where you expect people to whizz about different pages then you should be expecting your bounce rate to be in the range of 25-50%.

If it’s more than that then you may well have a problem with usability.

If you have an informational site then you’d expect your benchmark bounce rate to be in the region of 50-75%.

This is because people are much more likely to be reading long-form content that takes longer to get through and it is distinctly possible that they may only have time for one page at a time.

Magazine type sites present a bit of a problem.

If you have a site that has lots of long-form content then you should be looking at a higher bounce rate than one that has short, click-baity type articles.

So these kinds of site could have any bounce rate and could be completely different from other similar sites.

Really good bounce rates can be really bad bounce rates

OK so you log on to your analytics package and you are delighted to find that your bounce rate is down to 5%.


Woohooo! right?

Nope.

You see if your bounce rate is too good (or too bad) to be true then it probably isn’t.

A bounce rate of 5 % would tell me that you have a lot of bots visiting your site or that you haven’t excluded your own IP address so your staff are lowering it when they move from page to page.



Really bad bounce rates aren’t necessarily bad

So your bounce rate is 90% – time to give up and get a job?

Nope.

First of all bounce rate is to a certain extent a function of time.

Sites with high bounce rates can often be very new and not have a lot of content to read and so naturally they don’t get a lot of pageviews.

As they add more pages and more users visit then their bounce rate reduces.

So if you have a very new site, or you don’t have a lot of content on your site then don’t worry, just start adding content and your bounce rate will naturally reduce.

Bounce rate is important but it’s not everything

Bounce rate is important for SERPs ranking but what is much more important is whether your site is doing what you want it to.

So for example if you have a high bounce rate but your site is simply designed to let users view one page and then sign up for a mailing list then that’s all you need to focus on.

But if you have a page that is designed to expose users to lots of ads when they cruise between pages then a low bounce rate is essential.

So the message has to be – concentrate on what you want your site to achieve and if a low bounce rate would help then focus on it.

If it makes no difference then see it as an item of interest and nothing more.

Want to get your bounce rate down?

then you are going to need more content and if you haven’t got time then you need someone to produce it.

Now where can you find an ever so slightly sarcastic writer who specialises in writing superb content?


‘I hate accountants’ – common complaints and what you can do about them

A couple of months ago I decided to run a survey.

I wanted to know what people thought about accountants and I have to say I was a little bit shocked (but not massively surprised) by the results.

So I thought I’d write up some of the results in a way that will hopefully help people in practice avoid the sort of mistakes that cause people grief.

They never reply

This was a really interesting response and a common complaint.

Clients were complaining that their practice never got back to them. A simple matter of a lack of communication.

OK so we all get busy and we all have those clients who are a little bit needy but really?

The most surprising aspect of this was a number of complaints from people who said that they were looking for an accountant but their chosen practice never replied to their emails or calls!

Imagine all that time, effort and money spent on marketing and you don’t even respond to leads.

Two solutions here, first have a designated person who always fields calls from existing clients and make it a KPI that they have to be spoken to within x number of hours.

Second, for potential clients, invest some time in setting up a standardised contact procedure so that when someone mails or fills in your contact form they instantly go into a process that will email them back and get more information.

They cost too much

This was another common gripe although interestingly more than one person said that they didn’t really understand the value that was added and so couldn’t say whether it was expensive or not.

The problem here is that people don’t realise the bad things that could happen as a result of not bothering with a great accountant or of having a bad one.

The solution? Simple, communication once again.

Make sure you emphasise the tax you have saved people, the volume of work they have had, and the potential fines and penalties you have avoided.

More importantly though, if you have been providing business advice then highlight the value you have added to their company and what a bargain your fees have been.

They don’t speak my language

This is not confined to accountants, believe me!

This applies to any technical profession where there is the potential for jargon and complex concepts.

The solution is really more about the way that you communicate.

Some people are great with numbers, some not so. This means that you need to get to know your client and understand what level of detail they want, what terminology they are happy with and to an extent help to educate them a little where this is required.

They are arrogant

This is a difficult one and comes down to personal relationships and perception.

One man’s arrogant is another’s calm and confident.

A lot of the perception of arrogance comes from the fact that accountancy is a serious business and we have to act with a certain level of professionalism.

Most of the accountants I know aren’t arrogant at all, but then I would say that wouldn’t I given that I am a member of the profession myself?

The solution?

Don’t be afraid to get to know your clients. Have a chat about things other than numbers. The more you get to know them ( and they you) the less likely it is that a negative perception will arise.

One of the best accountants (and nicest guys) I ever knew often got described as arrogant.

However, his view was that he didn’t like to tell people about himself because he thought it sounded like bragging when actually it was just relationship building.

Don’t be afraid to tell people a little about yourself, it’s not a failure if you let people know you are a skydiver or like to paint watercolours.

They are slow

I was surprised to see that a lot of people didn’t like the speed with which their practice worked.

Now I’m going to seperate this out a little.

It is true to say that older, more traditional practices can be very slow in the way that they approach things.

But it was surprising that people complained about the speed of work with some of the more efficient practices.

It was almost as though they thought that the business of putting together a set of accounts or completing a tax comp was just a five-minute job.

Now I don’t want to sound arrogant here (see above) but this is often a matter of educating people as to what is involved in the work you are doing.

Letting your clients know that you will be doing the bookkeeping, producing the stats and going through a full quality control process helps people to understand why it takes so long and to an extent will also ameliorate the cost issue above.

It’s also helpful to have an FAQ section on your website and produce regular blogs that give people an insight into the life of a firm, especially around self-assessment time!

They won’t do what I want

This is a perennial problem that appears in pretty much every accountant’s forum that I have ever visited.

The client wants you to do something and for whatever reason, you can’t.

Maybe it would distort the true picture, maybe you just can’t achieve what they want, or maybe it is even downright illegal, but whatever the reason you need to be able to communicate this effectively.

I had a potential client come to me where they’d asked their current accountant to do something and he had just said “no”.

No explanation, no preamble, just “no”.

You can imagine how frustrated they were and yet when I explained that the thing they wanted to do was against VAT law they were perfectly happy.

It’s all about communication

The interesting thing for me was that the vast majority of problems that people had with their accountants were really just miscommunication.

I’ll be honest, this is where we as a profession do tend to let ourselves down a bit.

There is a simple solution though.

Invest in some training.

Often called ‘soft-skills’ or ’emotional intelligence’ the training is just a way of helping you to improve your listening and communication skills.

Sometimes the courses can be found for free with different organisations and sometimes you can find webinars, blogs and videos from coaches that will help.

That having been said, if you spend some money getting a trainer in to your practice for a day it will be money well spent because you’ll find that your conversion rate from lead to onboarding increases and your retention rate will be improved.

At the average rate for a good communication skills trainer you probably only need to retain a couple of clients to make it more than pay for itself.

And as a final piece of advice – distribute a newsletter.

You don’t have to write it, I can do that, all you need to do is to think up some interesting topics that will help your clients. You’ll be surprised what a difference it makes.

If you need help with marketing your practice then get in touch. I can give you a plan, write the content and help you analyse the results.

I admit that not everyone loves writing as much as me so if you’d like someone to take the pain away then why not drop me a line?

How a financial copywriter can help your software company

Financial copywriter for software company

A Financial Copywriter isn’t perhaps the first person you think of to write content for a software company but read on, as you’ll find that there are some very good reasons why it makes sense.

You see you shouldn’t necessarily be writing for your own industry. (although it is possible you may want to, see below)

The people you are writing for are your customers.

It may seem obvious, but it’s actually a lesson that many people forget and they do so at their peril.

Technical feels good, but actually is bad

This is one of the main problems.

It doesn’t really matter what business you are in and we’re all guilty of this.

You see when I worked as an accountant I made the mistake of thinking that my clients wanted to know that I had completed the bank rec and that form CT600 was ready to go in…

It wasn’t until some way into my career that I realised that many of them wanted two things from me; they wanted me to tell them if things were good, or if there was something they needed to think about.

They genuinely didn’t care that I knew the HMRC code for the form I was sending in, and me telling them it was just me showing off.

Technical details interest people that are in the same industry, but they don’t excite clients to the same degree.

What interests clients is the effect that their application has on their business.

Tone of voice matters

Admittedly I am breaking my own rule here because tone of voice is a technical term used in copywriting.

It means the way things are phrased, the language used, the manner of writing.

The problem is that unless you are a member of the clan you are speaking to then you may not understand what the tone of voice should sound like.

We’re all members of clans and accountants are no different. We have a way of speaking but we are also customers.

I can promise you that if you start using IT type technical terms in a piece aimed at engaging accountants you will be wasting your time largely.


You can find out more about tone of voice by clicking on the image below

How do you choose your tone of voice
Find out more about tone of voice here

Credentials matter

So imagine this; you have an app that is designed to make running an accountancy practice easier.

You have two pieces written, one by your head of sales and one by an accountant who has run an accountancy practice.

Which one carries more weight?

Exactly. So having a copywriter who is experienced in the field as a guest blogger adds weight to your proposition.

Naturally you have to use their name and credentials and some copywriters may not be comfortable with that , but many are.

It’s not about features, it’s about effects

A technical or general copywriter can probably write a great blog all about the features of a piece of software.

But what your customers want to know is what the effect will be.

How will it help their practice?

How will it help their clients?

How will it help their staff?

If you aren’t able to articulate this in the tone of voice that your potential customer base understand then you can forget it.

Why you need a financial copywriter for your software company.

It doesn’t really matter what your software does, what matters is how you talk to your customers.

A great financial copywriter will;

  • Speak in the tone of voice your customers prefer
  • Use the language of your customers
  • Understand the effects and benefits of your app
  • Automatically understand the issues your customers are having
  • Add weight to your offer
  • Add credibility to your content
  • Be able to articulate all of this in an engaging piece of content.

So that’s it:- if you are wanting to sell into the accounting and bookkeeping space then you need a proper financial copywriter.

Now where can you find one of them?


How do you choose your tone of voice?

How do you choose your tone of voice

If you have spent any time at all thinking about marketing you’ll probably have heard people talking about ‘tone of voice’ and maybe you have wondered what this is.

Well wonder no more dear friends for in this post I am going to tell you what tone of voice is and how to choose yours.

What is meant by ‘Tone of Voice’?

Tone of voice is a concept that lives within the world of marketing.

It simply means how you speak to people through whatever medium you are using.

Tone of voice will be different depending upon what type of company you are, who runs it, the type of customer you are speaking to and what you are trying to convey.

A good analogy is thinking about speaking with your peers or your grandmother.

You use a totally different way of speaking.

Your phraseology is different, how polite you are changes and the words you use also differ.

You’ll use a different tone of voice if you are imparting technical knowledge as opposed to say writing in a lifestyle magazine and in fact, if you ever consider writing for people they will often tell you what tone of voice to use.

Tone of voice – some examples.

I thought I’d take 3 examples of different types of tone.

The first one is for a well established bank.

Barclays has a wealth management arm and this snippet is from one of their web pages.

“Whether you want to grow your wealth for a retirement income or a legacy to pass on to future generations, we can help you set goals and try to achieve them”

https://www.barclays.co.uk/wealth-management/wealth-planning/

Notice that the tone is neutral, professional, not overly ebullient. There isn’t a lot of technical jargon and there are certain phrases that shy away from being overt.

So instead of saying “we aim to make you more money than other people” They say “we can help you set goals and try to achieve them

Now compare this to a website aimed at IT professionals

“Archive Shuttle leverages the latest ingestion technologies within its Advanced Ingestion Protocol (AIP) to achieve speeds that are dramatically faster with a lower failure rate over traditional EWS methods of migration to Microsoft endpoints.”

https://www.quadrotech-it.com/archive-shuttle/

This language is very different.

They need to establish their credentials and they do this by talking the language of their target market.

I have no idea what Advanced Ingestion Protocol (AIP) is but it sounds impressive.

Of course the website isn’t aimed at me, it’s aimed squarely at people who are looking to migrate large amounts of data between locations.

Here’s my third example

We’re thrilled to be able to serve you once again and are ready and raring to help you with your online orders. Our Customer Care team are on hand, and very happy to chat you through our product range

https://uk.lush.com/article/your-questions-answered

This is from cosmetics firm Lush.

Make no mistake, they are just as keen to sell you stuff as Barclays and Quadrotech but the way they speak is as if they are your best friend.

They may be a multi-national but they are adopting a friendly, happy, positive tone that you could hear down the pub or in the gym.


The big digital marketing secret
There’s a big secret that people won’t tell you about digital marketing – want to know what it is? Click the image to find out.

So how do you choose your tone of voice?

The million dollar question!

The first thing to consider is your company.

Is it just you? one or two of you? 500 people?

The way you speak may change dependent upon the image you want to convey.

Think about your target market

Then think about your target market, what do they expect?

If you are talking to buyers of cosmetics would you use the same approach as Quadrotech? In other words, would you go into technical detail about what ingredients are in the soaps or would you talk about how it feels/smells/looks?

Then think about how your target market talks amongst themselves.

Do they use a lot of TLAs (three-letter acronyms, see what I did there?).

Are they highly professional, mums, teenagers, middle aged men?

Check out forums, message boards, Facebook groups etc, and just watch how they interact.

Adopting the language and mannerisms is important for people to like, or feel invested in your brand.

Then have a look round at websites you like.

Are there any that stand out?

Do any particular brands shout at you “This is how you should speak”?

Finding good examples of tone of voice that you think would work well is probably the best way to choose your own.

Finally think about how you are going to communicate.

Some TOVs work better in some channels than others.

In short if you have a young audience, a cool product and you are using instagram as your primary channel then this will heavily influence your tone of voice.

Using the same tone on LinkedIn may not have the desired effect!

The best tone of voice is the right tone of voice

When I start working with people to define their marketing plan they often ask what is the best tone of voice to use.

There is no simple answer.

If we think of the three examples, none of these is ‘better’ than the others, they are all examples of successful companies speaking to their customer in the right tone of voice for them.

And this is the important point.

The right tone of voice can be as individual as a fingerprint.

You need to be comfortable with it, your staff need to be comfortable with it and more importantly, your customers need to be comfortable with it.

So there you go.

All you need to do now is to choose how you want to communicate and make sure the same tone of voice is used across all of your marketing channels!

If you would like some help with tone of voice then give me a shout. I’m a nice guy honest and having a second pair of eyes usually saves you a lot of money in wasted copy!

Covid-19 – what can we learn from the last downturn?

how to survive in a time of crisis

Business in the UK suffers a recession around every ten years so what can we learn as we emerge from the Covid crisis?

Well the good news is that for businesses this time is difficult but it also a time of opportunity so here are my thoughts based on living through two previous reversals.

Tip #1 Stay flexible

This is the number 1 tip because for me it’s the most important one.

Staying flexible means making sure that you have as many options open as possible.

Being ready to change tack quickly gives you a big advantage over bigger or less nimble companies.

Now is not the time to be wedded to the old ways of doing things or dig our heels in over the way we would really like to work.

New wins in a time of change

Tip #2 Talk to people

It’s amazing that when they are facing difficulties often people try to hide it.

Amazing, but understandable.

But this is really important. If you are having problems with cashflow and you can’t meet you rent or bills then speak to your landlord and suppliers and let them know.

I know it feels uncomfortable but work with me on this.

I used to work in credit control and the one thing we always loved is when a debtor came to us early and said “look I’m not going to be able to pay”.

Why?

Well for a start it meant that they were being honest and realistic right from the start and it meant that if we got them to agree to a payment plan then they’d probably stick to it.

What we didn’t like is when people avoided us for a couple of weeks and then when we did get hold of them they made up some ridiculous story about the dog having eaten the cheque they were going to send us!

Speaking to people early, telling the truth and coming up with a workable and realistic plan works 95% of the time.

Remember, in a time of crisis there will be a lot of people in the same boat as you so your landlords and suppliers have heard this before.

Tip# 3 Understand the difference between cash and profit.

This is really important. Very good companies make sure they have plenty of free cash in a time of crisis because at least they will be able to pay the bills.

Make sure you understand the difference between what your bank account is saying and what is shown on your P&L because they are VERY different.

Tip #4 Look for bargains

This goes for supplies, advertising and even buying up distressed companies.

In a time of crisis people start to have fire-sales and this is a time you can use that excess cash that you built up to really make inroads in your cost base.

People will begin to rein in their marketing spend which will make advertisers panic and drop their rates. You can get some excellent deals at when things are bad.

Speak with your suppliers, it may well be that they have stock that they bought for normal times that is just taking up space on their shelves and they may also want to realise some cash.

And if your competitors go to the wall then see if you can’t buy them from the receiver or even some of their stock at an auction. You could also pick up their best staff!

It’s all about keeping your ear to the ground and capitalising on any opportunities.

And remember that if you don’t ask then you don’t get.

Tip #5 – don’t do what everyone else does.

Take marketing.

Everyone will start to wind in spend on advertising as they see it as discretionary spend but that is absolutely the wrong thing to do.

Marketing is as valuable as your rent because it’s the thing that keeps the lights on.

Also remember that your competitors are also going to be reducing their marketing spend.

So if you maintain your activity you’ll stand out from the pack.

You’ll also probably get a great deal for your money (see tip 4)

Tip #6 – set a budget and stick to it.

Sit down with your accountant and organise at the very least a 12 month budget. Then get them to transfer this into a rolling forecast that gets updated every month.

This will allow you to know exactly where you are and the moment that you deviate from the course you initially set out.

And don’t neglect your bookkeeping – by having accurate accounts you can tell exactly where your money is going.

Tip # 7 – reduce your expenses.

Take a look at everything.

What can be done without?

What can be reduced?

What can be deferred?

By reducing not only the cost but also the cash outlay of your expenses you can make your business stronger for the future.

Tip #8 – Let your staff in on the secret

One of the things that many people think is that tye canhide bad news from the staff.

In fact it is very difficult to do this and even if they don’t know the details, people get an inkling that something is wrong and then it’s easy for their imagination to run riot.

Let people know what’s going on and ask for their help.

You’ll be surprised with what they come up with and I can guarantee that they won’t leave.

Tip#9 – Talk to people

In a similar vein as number 8, don’t take everything on your own shoulders.

Find someone to share your thoughts with because trying to tough out difficult times is hard on your mental health.

Being able to speak to someone, especially if they are also a business owner is a very good way of relieving some of this pressure.

In summary then, don’t worry.

Things might be uncertain and at times they may look bad.

but actually it’s often our imagination that is playing tricks on us and by using sound business principles you’ll most likely to be absolutely fine.

In fact, you’ll find that your business comes out of the covid-19 issue leaner and more able to develop your business in a sustainable way.